The Public Services Association (PSA) has stumbled in its attempt to pursue an industrial relations offence (IRO) against the National Insurance Board (NIB) over its failure to honour the terms of a collective agreement signed, late last year.
Guardian Media understands that a panel of the Industrial Court dismissed the PSA’s IRO during a hearing, yesterday afternoon.
During the hearing, PSA’s lawyers admitted that the application was filed under the wrong section of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA).
Based on the admission, attorney Christopher Sieuchand, who represented the NIB, successfully moved the court to throw out the application.
In a statement issued late yesterday, PSA President Watson Duke said that a fresh application to revive the workers’ claim for relief will be brought.
“By tomorrow (Wednesday) we expected it to be done and placed before the court under the correct section of the IRA,” Duke said.
According to the court filings, the agreement for the period 2014 to 2016, which gave workers a total salary increase of nine per cent (three per cent per year), was signed on October 26, last year.
Under the agreement, which required the NIB to make retroactive payments to eligible employees by December 31, last year, workers were also given increases in their paternity leave, car and car repair loans, and travelling allowances. Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) was also increased to $220.
“To date, NIB has failed to pay the revised salary and allowances along with the retroactive payments. Accordingly, the PSA submits that they (NIB) have fundamentally violated the terms of this collective agreement,” Duke said.
Through the industrial relations offence, the union was seeking to compel the NIB to abide by the terms of the agreement. It is also seeking compensation for employees, who would have relied on it to apply for loans and subsequently defaulted.
The collective agreement was recently discussed in the Senate.
Responding to a question posed by Opposition Senator Wade Mark on March 9, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said that his ministry was seeking advice on the issue.
“The consequences of the agreement are also far-reaching and could result in tremendous expense to taxpayers if used as a precedent,” Imbert said, as he described the matter as complicated.
Imbert noted that in March 2011, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance wrote to the Chairman of the NIB and indicated that the Human Resource Advisory Committee of Cabinet would monitor all wage and salary negotiations. The collective agreement was not authorised by the ministerial committee, according to Imbert.
Imbert suggested that if the NIB agreement was applied to all workers in the entire public sector it would cost taxpayers approximately $7 billion.